I am given to understand that scientists have conclusively proven that every cell in the human body replaces itself every 7 to 10 years. So, I suppose I’m a completely different person from who I was in high school. That’s funny to think about but doesn’t feel entirely inaccurate to me as I type out this first draft. Even so, I shaped my education and career path based on those experiences.
Why do people have this drive to come together and observe an event? The quick, and true answer (as all answers to open ended questions like this may be) is to experience something that would never be available by proxy. All the advances in historic performance tech – from the periaktoi to the use of rigging and the proscenium to electricity and film itself are an attempt to capture a moment and drop the environment in to assist the storytellers on stage. This is to make the experience require as little suspension of disbelief as possible and keep the audience in the world of the play. Guerilla theater of Augusto Boal does the same, but by fully inserting the performance into the world of the audience.
One of my former professors would say that all performance, all traditional societal practices go back to ritual, a practice often with a group which is for a reason beyond the material. The effect of ritual was primarily a unifying one, as all the people had to decide to peacefully come together for this mutually agreed upon purpose. This was more important than any petty disagreements that two individuals may have.
The way I’ve been thinking about the rituals of this season has a path which may have been followed by other folk traditions in millennia past. With Thanksgiving I look at the past year with loved ones and note something that made it better than it could have been, for which one is grateful. For Christmas I get to express appreciation for the existence of the people in my life and try to approach everyone with Christ-like agape. On New Years I can reset, refresh myself, and select a direction for the next year to improve myself the best I can.
In college I was taught while taking a class on Meyerhold’s Biomechanics that every movement has a slight preparatory movement in the opposite direction before progressing along its path. There is a transition moment between these two movements which can be filled with tension like with a spring, which could launch in a direction. Eventually, we could focus on that tension filled moment and reduce the movement prior to have explosive bursts of energy from stillness. But there were still those three parts of the movement. On stage this could help make movement more precise and has been used as a tool for training specificity of movement necessary in performers like mimes.
I think that the winter holidays in this framing of them fits well with the concept of looking at life with a compassionate lens, express gratitude to those who help you get there, and then look to the future which is where one can find the meaning for life that Victor Frankl wrote a book called Man's Sear for Meaning about, where he expounded on its resuscitative importance. He was writing of the horrors of a WWII work camp, particularly in the winter. The people who survived were those who had a reason to live, to exist into the future. The reasons ran the gamut from playing concert clarinet to telling grandchildren that they were loved. If one didn’t have a reason beyond bestial labors like eating or sleeping, then when things got incredibly difficult to conjure the mental fortitude to carry on for another day, week, month or year. My New Years Resolution is to take concrete steps toward setting myself to be providing for a household.